The site

Lohra Castle, situated in the heart of Germany in Northern Thuringia, graces the scenic hilly landscape on the edge of a natural reserve area. As one of the largest castles in Thuringia, its historical significance dates to the Middle Ages, boasting a rich heritage that spans over a millennium. Standing tall as a relic of German medieval history, Lohra Castle has its small part in the narrative of the historical evolution of Germany.

The castle's architecture is a testament to the passing centuries, with traces of each era preserved throughout this ensemble of buildings. From medieval fortifications to remnants of an 11th-century tower, and a Romanesque double-floored chapel from the 12th century to a Renaissance-era manor house, Lohra Castle encapsulates a fascinating historical evolution. Even the stables and other agrarian structures from the 19th and early and mid-20th centuries contribute to the ensemble's captivating charm, offering visitors and heritage enthusiasts a glimpse into the past.

Surrounded by a serene forest, Lohra Castle was left vacant for several decades leading to its deterioration. In the 1990s, Open Houses, the parent organisation of European Heritage Volunteers, took up the noble mission of rescuing and revitalising this forgotten monument through cultural activities. This endeavour not only breathed new life into the castle but also provided a space for young people to connect with tangible heritage and appreciate the importance of preserving historical monuments.

Since then, Lohra Castle has become a hub for international engagement. Year after year, a diverse array of activities takes place, including international workcamps, heritage volunteering projects, heritage training courses, seminars, exhibitions, and concerts, all bringing together participants from around the world.


The project

The European Heritage Volunteers Project in 2024 continues the work initiated during the 2023 project, with a special focus on the roof constructions at two historical barns constructed one towards the end of the 19th century and the other one in the first decade of the 20th century, during Lohra Castle's era as a significant regional agricultural centre.

The barn built at the beginning of the 20th century served as a stable for sheep, while the upper floor was used for hay storage. As the grandest building of the ensemble, it boasts an impressive cubature, an elegant roof construction, and interesting design details. Presently used primarily for storage, the castle administration envisions transforming it on a mid-term into an expanded social space for volunteers and visitors, visualising it as a future gathering hall for events.

An intriguing aspect lies in the barn's walls, crafted from limestone ashlars that primarily originated from the once magnificent thirty-meter-high tower dominating the castle's outline. Erected in the 11th century, the tower met its demise during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when its finely cut stones were repurposed for agricultural expansion. Such actions may seem unimaginable today, but they reflect the shifting attitudes towards heritage sites over time.

The other area of work will be at the roof structures of the so-called Black Stable which was built towards the end of the 19th century to accommodate cattle and is today the first building visitors see when entering the castle complex and a typical example of vernacular architecture in the region. Its name comes from it being painted in the traditional black colour often seen for wooden constructions in rural Thuringia. Traditional black paint is used to protect wooden structures, and it is typically made using a mixture of natural ingredients.

During the European Heritage Volunteers Project, damaged sections of the roof constructions at both buildings will be meticulously replaced, aiming to conserve as much of the original substance as possible, despite the barns' relatively young age compared to other structures of the castle ensemble. This approach of careful repair instead of wholesale replacements sensitises participants to the value of original heritage structures, regardless of their age or listing status.

European Heritage Volunteers adheres to accepted conservation practices, implementing slow and careful repairs using traditional and appropriate materials. Emphasis is placed on retaining historic timber joints over modern metal connections, ensuring repaired roof constructions retain their original constructive and aesthetic quality.

The participants will learn how to identify damages and make decisions that preserve the maximum original substance while meeting the structural, static, and aesthetic requirements. From setting up scaffolding to dismantling the roof, replacing damaged or rotten beams, and skilfully connecting new parts with the original structure, they will actively participate in all practical steps of the conservation process.

The educational program will include guided tours and visits to sites showcasing traditional wooden structures in the region surrounding Lohra Castle. This broader perspective will deepen participants' understanding of traditional roof structures and timber construction techniques, enriching their heritage conservation expertise.


The project will take place from September 01st to September 14th, 2024, and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers.

European Heritage Volunteers